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Section Header
Christopher Columbus: The Discovery
Composed, Conducted, and Produced by:
Cliff Eidelman

Orchestrated by:
Mark McKenzie
William Kidd

Performed by:
The Seattle Symphony Orchestra

Varèse Sarabande

Release Date:
September 15th, 1992

Also See:
Star Trek VI
Triumph of the Spirit

Audio Clips:
2. Come O Come Emanuel (0:34):
WMA (213K)  MP3 (263K)
Real Audio (164K)

7. The Voyage (0:29):
WMA (191K)  MP3 (234K)
Real Audio (145K)

11. The Discovery (Gloria) (0:30):
WMA (197K)  MP3 (242K)
Real Audio (150K)

16. A Hero's Welcome (Epilogue) (0:30):
WMA (193K)  MP3 (238K)
Real Audio (147K)

Regular U.S. release.


Christopher Columbus: The Discovery

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Buy it... if you own and enjoy Cliff Eidelman's Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country and seek his largest symphonic follow-up to that score.

Avoid it... if you expect either a robust recording size or an unpredictable, non-traditional musical representation for the historical event.

Christopher Columbus: The Discovery: (Cliff Eidelman) What were they thinking? It was obvious that Warner Brothers wanted to take advantage of the 500th anniversary of Columbus' discovery of the New World a few months prior to the release of Ridley Scott's 1492: Conquest of Paradise. But when you look at all the ways in which Warner's Christopher Columbus: The Discovery failed so miserably, it's hard to imagine why anyone thought this production had a chance for success. The crew included James Bond director John Glen and Godfather writer and star, Mario Puzo and Marlon Brando, along with a badly miscast ensemble of supporting actors led by Tom Selleck not as Quigley, but rather the King of Spain. Not only was the screenplay an absolute mess that spurred protests from Native American groups over disrespectful portrayals of their people, but the performances by all four leads were dismal. Brando's work as Chief Inquisitor Torquemada is particularly lazy. The film barely registered at the level of quality that would suffice for a cable television production, and the fact that Christopher Columbus: The Discovery actually received a feature release (bombing with critics and audiences immediately) is surprising. The one area in which Warner made a competent choice was in hiring young composer Cliff Eidelman for the film's symphonic score. Fresh off his success with Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country, Eidelman was asked to create a powerful score for Christopher Columbus: The Discovery that would play a prominent role in the film. After much effort, he produced by far the longest score of his career and, perhaps, the most diverse. His traditional orchestral approach could not be any further from Vangelis' new age music for 1492: Conquest of Paradise, and while the latter score would be a terrible fit for the film itself, it would go on to high album sales for years. Eidelman's score, conversely, was a valiant attempt to help save the film, but has long gone forgotten. Historians will argue that Columbus, after his slaughters and other "misuses" of the people of the New World, doesn't deserve anything close to a hero's theme, but Eidelman bypasses that debate and provides the expected Hollywood fanfare for the subject.

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Eidelman's composition is rich with theme and texture, both seaworthy and religious. Its ability cover both necessary bases is admirable, and while he relies upon a robust orchestral performance for the representation of the high seas, he employs a male choir for the Catholic element. The latter's influence on the score is one of the more interesting aspects of Eidelman's work here. Two hymnal cues, "Come O Come Emanuel" and "The Discovery (Gloria)," are merged with Eidelman's own original themes. While the Latin choral performances in these cues may sound familiar to the hymns you would hear in a church, Eidelman has altered their underlying structure to fit his themes for the film. It could be possible that the hymnal inspiration guided all of Eidelman's score in some fashion, but most score fans won't care enough to notice. The title theme is the highlight of Christopher Columbus: The Discovery, heard in "The Great Sea," "The Voyage," and with victorious spirit in "A Hero's Welcome (Epilogue)." That last cue is a powerhouse worthy of any compilation, not only emulating the grand posture of the final cues from Star Trek VI, but throwing in a singular pan pipe or recorder for one gorgeous statement of the theme. Several of the cues handle scenes with a light hand, curiously underplaying the music's role; most of these portions are for the first "Spain" act of the film, and these moments are easily the score's greatest weakness on paper. Far more disruptive is a sparse performance by Seattle Symphony Orchestra, used likely in a cost-saving gesture and unfortunately contributing solely to the diminished scope of performance that haunts this recording. This composition is very deserving of a more meaty performance, though the two choral recordings (the latter of which will remind of Patrick Doyle's famous Henry V choral piece) are well enunciated with truncated lyrics from the traditional hymns. If this score had been recorded in a cathedral, as John Ottman has done in Seattle, perhaps a more vibrant and spiritual effect would have been achieved. In any case, Christopher Columbus: The Discovery is a fine effort by Eidelman, who often wrote strong scores at the time, only to have many of them thwarted by undersized ensembles. A relatively obscure release by the Varèse Sarabande label offers 43 minutes of music that would turn out to be Eidelman's last boisterous adventure score before fading into obscurity himself. **** Price Hunt: CD or Download

Bias Check:For Cliff Eidelman reviews at Filmtracks, the average editorial rating is 3.29 (in 17 reviews)
and the average viewer rating is 3.15 (in 7,905 votes). The maximum rating is 5 stars.

 Viewer Ratings and Comments:  

Regular Average: 3.45 Stars
Smart Average: 3.35 Stars*
***** 144 
**** 124 
*** 96 
** 59 
* 65 
  (View results for all titles)
    * Smart Average only includes
         40% of 5-star and 1-star votes
              to counterbalance fringe voting.
   A great score +
  Sheridan -- 7/4/06 (9:51 a.m.)
Read All | Add New Post | Search | Help  

 Track Listings: Total Time: 42:47

Act I: Spain

• 1. The Great Sea (1:35)
• 2. Come O Come Emanuel (2:23)
• 3. The Broken Cloud (3:39)
• 4. Never Forget (2:00)
• 5. Spain Defeats the Moors (3:09)
• 6. Houses of Gold (1:07)

Act II: The Sea

• 7. The Voyage (1:29)
• 8. Mutiny on the Bounty (3:17)
• 9. Remembering Home (1:31)
• 10. Saint Elmo's Fire (4:07)
• 11. The Discovery (Gloria) (3:03)
Act III: The West Indies

• 12. The New World (3:22)
• 13. Alvarao's Fatal Act (2:17)

Act IV: The Sea

• 14. Storm (1:02)

Act IV, Part II: Spain

• 15. The Return (0:41)
• 16. A Hero's Welcome (Epilogue) (7:27)

 Notes and Quotes:  

The insert includes the following note by Kevin Mulhall:

    "Eidelman refers to Christopher Columbus as one his most challenging assignments. In the first place, he was asked to provide the film with extensive musical coverage. Director John Glen and producers Alexander & Ilya Salkind wanted the score to play an important role in the film, so they asked him to write music that would function in the foreground of the drama. The result is the longest of the sixteen scores Eidelman has penned. Conceptually, Eidelman's approach was to write broad, symphonic music that would delineate the different worlds and situations presented in the narrative. To this end Eidelman composed contrasting musical structures and atmospheres for the Spanish and oceanic settings. Eidelman's aural design is a study in contrast-consider the variety offered by the ethnic qualities of the Spanish material, the exhilarating orchestral sweep underlining the expedition, the lyrical love theme, the choral interludes, and the kinetic fight music. From the abortive discovery of land, to the actual discovery of land and the final return, Eidelman's music matches the scope and ambition of Columbus' journey.

    In one amusing anecdote, Eidelman relates how the process of writing the score mirrored the international flavor of Columbus' adventure itself. While Eidelman was composing in Los Angeles, the director and the co-producer were filming in Portugal, the editor was cutting in London, and the executive producers were working in Florida. What's more, the recording sessions were to be held with the Seattle Symphony Orchestra. Despite the potential for chaotic breakdown in communications, Eidelman reports that the unusual nature of the collaboration helped rather than hindered the creative process. Because John Glen and the Salkinds trusted him, Eidelman was given considerable freedom to conceive and develop his musical ideas and dramatic associations. After listening to the music on this compact disc, it should be clear to everyone that the positive environment effected by the filmmakers and the composer has resulted in a powerful, melodically inventive score that grants Christopher Columbus a spot near the apex of Eidelman's pyramid of musical accomplishments."

  All artwork and sound clips from Christopher Columbus: The Discovery are Copyright © 1992, Varèse Sarabande. The reviews and other textual content contained on the site may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the prior written authority of Filmtracks Publications. Audio clips can be heard using RealPlayer but cannot be redistributed without the label's expressed written consent. Page created 3/31/98 and last updated 1/5/08. Review Version 5.1 (PHP). Copyright © 1998-2015, Christian Clemmensen (Filmtracks Publications). All rights reserved.